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Travelogue #7 - Chennai to Masinagudi/Mudumalai/Bandipur

As has been propagated in this blog many times before, the magnificent Western Ghats of India is truly a traveler’s paradise. This fact only got further reinforced as we traveled to yet another beautiful destination in the Ghats recently. This time, unlike our previous visits, we decided to explore the wildlife that is known to flourish in the area encompassing the borders of the three South Indian states - Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Now that you have got the hint, here is the warning – read on only if you like nature and wildlife. If not, you will find this travelogue rather uninteresting and vague. The destination in spotlight is Masinagudi, and the nearby Mudumalai and Bandipur.

We deliberately chose places where the only things to see were wildlife sanctuaries and the only activity to do was to go on safaris, either inside the forest or along the public jungle roads, trying to spot animals and birds in their natural habitat. For a change, we waited for elephants and deers to cross the road, we pulled over by the roadside to catch a close glimpse of peacocks and langurs, mobile phones did not ring and nuisances like horns and camera flashlights were prohibited. Thankfully, it was the wildlife and nature that were given preferences in these places than us humans, as the authorities know only too well that we play spoilsport wherever we go.

Though Masinagudi is in Tamil Nadu, the best way to reach the place is to go through Bangalore and Mysore. As already stated in the Coorg Travelogue before, the full stretch from Chennai to Mysore makes for a great drive with wide and neatly paved roads with the only dampener being a few unmarked speed-breakers. Though the road narrows down to two lanes beyond Mysore, the surface is mostly excellent except for a few patches here and there. On the way, make sure that you stop at Nanjangud to look at those abandoned meter gauge coaches and rail buses, that takes us to a bygone era. The roads are mostly deserted and boring until you enter Bandipur from where the road gets very interesting as it passes through forests and ghats.

Bandipur, Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border and Mudumalai come and go in quick succession. At the Mudumalai Forest Office junction, the road to the left takes you to Masinagudi and the straight road takes you to Ooty. Once there, your daily routine would be to go on jungle safaris in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. Tamil Nadu Government charges Rs.30 per head for a 45-minute safari in Mudumalai whereas Karnataka Government charges you Rs.300 for a 2-hour safari in the Bandipur forest. Just like you, we were quite puzzled by the huge difference in the rates between the two places, yet another classic case of Karnataka’s ridiculously high cost of living.

Having experienced both, we suggest that you take your own vehicle along the highway that passes through these jungles, as we ended up spotting much more wildlife activity along the roads than on those trails inside the forests. The rickety old vans used by both the Governments for the jungle safari needs special mention here as the squeaks and rattles that they produce would scare any living creature on earth even a kilometer away. It just goes to show that we have a lot to learn from countries like Kenya where, we hear, jungle safaris are organized beautifully in a perfect and disciplined way. Nevertheless, having been there and done that, if given a chance to go there again, the answer would be a definite ‘yes’.

ROUTEMAP:


FACTFILE:

* Total No of Days: 4 (01.10.2011 - 04.10.2011)
* Vehicle Make & Model: Honda Civic

* Odometer Start Reading: 33699 km
* Odometer End Reading: 35151 km
* Total Distance traveled: 1452 km
* No of Toll Booths: 16
* Money spent on Toll: Rs. 630

* Total Quantity of Fuel filled: 108.06 l
* Average Fuel Consumption: 13.44 km/l
* Money spent on Fuel: Rs. 7908

* Destinations Covered: Masinagudi / Mudumalai / Bandipur
* Route Followed: Chennai-Hosur-Mysore-Nanjangud-Bandipur-Masinagudi

THE LANDSCAPE:


THE AUTOMOBILE:


Charge your batteries, pack your bags, don’t forget your cameras and get as close to wildlife as possible in South India by visiting Masinagudi, Mudumalai and Bandipur. Once there, please make sure that all rules are strictly followed. Excepting a few stupid souls who scared the hell out of the animals by honking their way to glory and by flashing the cameras right onto their faces, most other tourists were highly disciplined. Most importantly, do not go off the track into the forest and, whatever happens, do not get out of your vehicle in the entire forest stretch starting from Bandipur till Masinagudi and beyond.

4 comments:

  1. very helpful.. I was wondering if I could take my car there, now made my mind to drive

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    Replies
    1. Of course you can. From humble Altos to swanky BMWs, we've seen them all go there and come back without breaking a sweat.

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  2. What would the ideal time to start from chennai to ensure we capture the serene landscape and wildlife?

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    Replies
    1. Dawn and dusk are when you get to see a lot of animals and birds by the roadside. Plan accordingly.

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